Christian Book Previews Home
Christian Book Previews
Book Jacket

0801045207
Hardcover
160 pages
Jan 2004
Baker Books

Bizarre Bible Stories: Flying Pigs, Walking Bones, and 24 Other Things That Really Happened

by Dan Cooley

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt

Excerpt:

1

Talking Animals

Scripture Passage: Numbers 22

So What? God knows what you’re thinking!

Have you ever sneezed and had someone say, “Bless you”? What do people mean by that? Does it give you a blessing? What would happen if someone said, “Curse you”? What would that mean? What would that do?

Some people believe strongly in blessing and cursing things. This is especially true for those who worship the earth, or Satan, or other false gods. When they bless things or people, sometimes it seems good things happen to them. When they curse things or people, it seems bad things happen to them.

Years ago, the king of Moab wanted to curse the Jewish people because he was afraid they were going to attack his country. He hired a man named Balaam to do the cursing. It seemed that whenever Balaam cursed or blessed people, he got results. He was getting rich just going around cursing or blessing other people for hire. That wasn’t a bad job! It paid well, and everyone seemed to like him.

Maybe you would go to Balaam and say, “Hey, I don’t like my little brother. Can you put a curse on him—nothing too bad—for this weekend?” “Sure,” Balaam might say, “for ten bucks.” So you would pay him, and he would do it. On the other hand, maybe you would pay him to bless your next soccer game or your math test.

Balaam’s blessings and curses really came true. Sometimes this may have been just luck, but other times it was more than luck. He lived on the shores of a big river called the Euphrates. Scientists have been able to dig up the old towns on the bank of the Euphrates from when Balaam lived. They found a lot of things that were used to worship demons. They’re similar to things used today for voodoo, witchcraft, and New Age and occult religions. Balaam believed in all kinds of gods. He was successful in bringing blessings and curses because the demons of these gods were doing things for him. He was a very dangerous man, and he was making a lot of money.

How many true gods are there? How do you talk to God? Can you order him to do things for you?

Balak, the evil king of Moab, wanted to curse the Jewish people. So he said, “Balaam! Hey, Balaam! I’ll pay you big bucks to call curses down on Israel.” Balaam liked the sound of that. Big bucks were what he liked.

The way Balaam called down blessings or curses on people was to talk to their false god. Behind every false god is a demon. He would talk to the demon, and the demon would do things for him. “No problem,” thought Balaam. “I’ll just talk to the god/demon of these Jewish people, and he will curse them for me. And I’ll make big bucks on it.” However, when he spoke to this God, things were different. This wasn’t a fake god; this was the REAL God. This God didn’t take orders—this God gave orders. God ordered Balaam not to curse the Jews; he could bless them but not curse them.

Do you like to go on trips? Where is your favorite place to go? Has your car ever broken down on a long trip?
What happened?

God told Balaam he could go to see the evil king, but he couldn’t curse the Jews. Balaam packed up and got ready to go. He thought to himself, “The king will pay me lots of gold. I’ll be rich if I call curses down on Israel. So I won’t do what the God of the Israelites wants me to do. Their God will think I’m going to bless the Jews. But when I show up, I’ll call curses down on them. I’ll get rich. Their God can’t stop me because he doesn’t know what I am going to do! I’ll sure surprise him!”

Balaam didn’t tell anybody what he was thinking. It isn’t even written down in this part of the Bible. [It’s alluded to later in 2 Peter 2:15–16, and Jude 11.] However, we know what he was thinking because of what happened next.

Balaam saddled his donkey and started to ride out to meet the evil king, the king of Moab. He was probably whistling his favorite song to himself, thinking of how he was going to spend all that money. Suddenly, his donkey bolted off the path, taking Balaam with him. Smack! Balaam hit her on the side of the head. “Stupid donkey!” he yelled. “Stay on the lousy path!”

A little later the path became narrower, with a wall on both sides. Balaam was again lost in thought, spending the money he didn’t yet have. Whack! The donkey smashed Balaam’s foot against one of the walls! She continued to walk ahead. Thump! Balaam hit her harder. “You idiot,” he yelled. “Keep it up, and you’ll be my supper meat!”

The walls on the sides of the path got even closer together. The donkey and Balaam couldn’t fit through. So the donkey stopped. Balaam wanted her to go on, but she wouldn’t. Then she laid down! There Balaam was, sitting on top of a donkey that was lying on the ground between two walls. “That’s it,” said Balaam. “You’re supper now!” He took his staff—a big stick—and began to beat her.

What animals do you have? Have you ever talked to them? Do they answer? [If they answer “Yes,” you have your parental work cut out for you!]

About this time, Jesus gave the bruised donkey the ability to speak. The donkey asked Balaam, “What have I done to deserve you beating me three times today?” What would you do if your animals started talking to you? I bet you wouldn’t do what Balaam did.

Balaam started talking back to her as if it was normal! Balaam answered the donkey, “You made a fool of me, donkey! If I had a sword in my hand, I’d kill you right now!”

Why wasn’t Balaam surprised that his donkey was talking? Can you think of another time in the Bible when an animal spoke? It’s in the very beginning.

Satan once talked to Eve through a snake. That’s when Eve was tempted to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. In a story in the New Testament, demons enter pigs. That’s a story for later in this book. Okay, we know that demons can enter animals if God lets them. We know that Satan spoke through a snake. We know that demons entered pigs. We know that Balaam talked with demons before. It’s possible Balaam talked with demons in animals before.

Was there a demon in the donkey on this day? No, it was just the donkey in the donkey! So the donkey said back to Balaam, “Aren’t I your own donkey and haven’t you ridden me often? Have I ever acted like this before?” Balaam answered, “Um . . . no. In fact, until today you’ve been a fine donkey.”

Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes. He saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn! [This is probably Jesus. It seems that O.T. references to the angel of the Lord are references to God himself. The story of Gideon in Judges 6 is an example of  “the angel of the Lord” later being referred to as “The Lord.”] Now Balaam knew why his donkey kept stopping. Quickly Balaam bowed low with his face in the dirt. The angel of the Lord asked Balaam, “Why have you beaten your donkey three times? I have come here to block your way because you are stubbornly resisting me. It’s a good thing you had that donkey with you. If you didn’t, you would be dead by now. I would have killed you, but I wanted to spare the donkey, and I couldn’t hit you without injuring her!”

Wow, imagine God telling you that your pet is worth more to him than you are! Balaam learned a hard lesson. He learned that God knows your thoughts, even when you haven’t told them to any other person. When God says to give him your heart, he means to give him even your thoughts. You may as well let God in on all your thoughts and plans; he knows them anyway. That way you will always be worth much more to him than your pet, whether it is a talking pet or not!

When Balaam left that place, his donkey took him straight to the evil king. There God blessed the Israelites through Balaam. The evil king wanted curses, but God brought blessings. When you let God in on your plans, blessing is the result!

Remember: You’ve Got His Word on It

How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Psalm 19:12

I have not kept this good news hidden in my heart; I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power. I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing love and faithfulness. Psalm 40:10

How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ. Ephesians 1:3

And so it is: All who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith. . . . Through the work of Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, and we Christians receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith. . . . So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. Galatians 3:9, 14; 6:9

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11